REDCLIFF, AB – Cases of break and enter and property theft have skyrocketed in Alberta over the past few years, creating a state of fear for many rural residents across the province.
But it seems like Alberta RCMP are starting to turn a corner, as they gave an update on their Crime Reduction Strategy on Tuesday.
In total, RCMP are reporting 648 fewer stolen vehicles, 366 fewer break and enters, and 2,358 fewer thefts in Alberta this year compared to last year.
They also say property crimes excluding fraud, mischief, and arson in rural detachments dropped 11 percent from January to July 2018 and 25 percent year-over-year.
According to Redcliff RCMP Cpl. Shane Ryan, they’re seeing similar success thanks to a more vigilant public.
“They've been watching their neighbours, they've been watching the rural areas, they've been watching their properties closely,” said Ryan. “And any suspicious activity, they're quicker to call us.”
Organizations like the South East Alberta Rural Crime Watch Association have been providing support to police, helping to spread the word of vigilance and awareness.
President Shane Hok said neighbours find it important to look out for each other, which is often easier during seeding and harvest.
“Part of the reduction in crime has got to do with more public awareness,” said Hok. “The farmers are out in the field, the ranchers are out, there's more eyes out on the county roads right now.”
The Redcliff detachment’s latest published numbers come from the final quarter of 2017, which saw a modest decrease from 93 to 84 property crimes over a three-month span.
However, Ryan said cases of rural theft and stolen vehicles have taken a major dive over the last six months or so.
He added another reason for the dip has been a trio of high-profile arrests dating back to late February that have taken a number of repeat offenders off these properties.
“We've also been able to put a number of key players in jail that were prolific offenders and that has really helped to reduce the number of property related thefts,” he said.
Hok added the increased visibility of property crime has struck a chord with those wanting to get involved with the Rural Crime Watch Association.
“We've gone from 15 to 20 people, to over 100 some attending,” he said. “With the RCMP giving updates and different speeches, it's getting more people more aware.”
On Wednesday, the province announced they’re going to provide $2.5 million in grants for organizations that support crime prevention.
The Civil Forfeiture Grants are available to non-profit organizations, schools and municipalities, and range between $50,000 and $200,000.
Cypress County isn’t directly involved with the Rural Crime Watch Association, but Reeve Richard Oster said it’s something they’re open to.
“If they come up with some kind of ideas that they would like Cypress County to assist them in, we would take a look at it,” said Oster.
While numbers are improving both in Alberta and in the Redcliff area, RCMP are still asking residents to lock up their belongings and report any suspicious activity.
Covering over 13,000 square kilometres of area, Ryan said these steps are making a huge difference for the Redcliff detachment.
“By the community being vigilant and reporting stuff immediately, that is one of the reasons why we're catching these criminals,” he said.
The local Rural Crime Watch Association will be holding their 2018 Annual General Meeting at the Seven Persons Hall on October 23.
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